The off-season hot stove is on fire right now as the annual Winter Meetings saw some significant movement in the free agent market. With so many transactions to sort through, let’s take a look at some of the biggest from the week.
Aaron Judge Rakes In Massive Deal
After betting on himself, rejecting a seven-year deal for $213.5 million last offseason, Aaron Judge cashed in big over the winter meetings in free agency. Re-signing with the New York Yankees, the AL MVP signed a nine-year deal worth $360 million.
The average annual value of $40 million is the richest for a position player in MLB history and trails only Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander’s $43.3 million.
Last season, the 30-year-old Judge hit .311/.425/.686 with an AL record of 62 home runs, to go along with 131 runs batted in, 133 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases.
Judge was also pursued by the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres, but he ultimately chose to come back to the only team he has ever known in his professional career.
Mets Make Big Pitching Additions
With Jacob deGrom leaving in free agency, the New York Mets wasted no time in finding pitching upgrades. The Mets are bringing in both reigning AL Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander and lefty Jose Quintana into the mix.
For Verlander, he was inked to a two-year deal worth $86.6 million. The deal also includes an option for a player option of $35 million for 2025 if he pitches at least 140 innings in 2024.
Last season with the Astros, Verlander went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.829 WHIP, and he struck out 185 in 175 innings of work.
For Quintana, the 33-year-old agreed to a two-year deal worth $26 million. In 32 starts with the Pirates and Cardinals last season, Quintana went 6-7 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and he struck out 137 in 165.2 innings.
deGrom Finds New Home In Lone Star State
While Verlander takes his spot with the Mets, Jacob deGrom is replacing Verlander in the Lone Star State, although he is going to the Texas Rangers instead of the Astros.
The Rangers signed the 34-year-old ace to a five-year deal worth $185 million. It also includes a 2028 conditional option.
deGrom has been hampered with injuries throughout his career, but when he is on, he is one of the best in the game. Last year, in 11 games with the Mets, he went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA, 0.746 WHIP and had 102 strikeouts in 64.1 innings.
The problem for deGrom is that he has only pitched in a combined 38 starts since 2019 due to a variety of injuries. If he can stay healthy, deGrom should certainly help a team that ranked 22nd in team ERA last year at 4.21.
In addition to deGrom, the Rangers also signed lefty Andrew Heaney to a two-year deal worth $25 million. Last season, with the Dodgers, Heaney went 4-4 in 16 games (14 starts) with a 3.10 ERA.
NL Central Rivals Add Stars
NL Central rivals were also active during the Winter Meetings. For the Chicago Cubs, they were able to add former NL MVP Cody Bellinger to a one-year, $17.5 million deal. They also boosted their rotation by adding starter Jameson Taillon on a four-year deal worth $68 million.
For Bellinger, this is a bit of a “get right” contract, as the former MVP has struggled in recent years. With the Dodgers last year, he hit just .210/.265/.389 with 19 home runs and 68 runs batted in.
Still playing an elite centerfield, the Cubs hope he can get back to his 2019 numbers when he hit .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs and 115 runs batted in.
For Taillon, he went 14-5 last year with the New York Yankees, sporting a 3.91 ERA, 1.128 WHIP, and struck out 151 in 177.1 innings. The 31-year-old will fit nicely in a Cubs’ rotation that ranked just 20th in staff ERA last year (4.00).
On the other side of the rivalry, the St. Louis Cardinals solidified their catcher position by adding former Chicago Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras. After years of Yadier Molina behind the plate, they bring in the All-Star Contreras on a five-year deal worth $87.5 million.
Last season, Contreras hit .243/.349/.466 with 22 home runs, 55 runs batted in, and 65 runs scored in 416 at bats.